Robert Reich Vlog

Robert Reich has recently started a video blog. It can be found regularly at his blog.

I went door to door for Reich during his 2002 campaign to be Governor of Massachusetts. He tied for second in the primary, and would have made a hell of a lot better candidate than the woman the Democrats ran against Mitt Romney. I can only imagine that if Reich had won, I wouldn't have to be from Mitt Romney's presidential springboard state.

EDIT: Mitt Romney has raised 23 Million DOLLARS, in his presidential bid so far. [LINK]

The prior records for first-quarter fundraising were held by Republican Phil Gramm of Texas and Democrat Al Gore of Tennessee. Gramm raised $8.7 million in 1995, while Gore raised $8.9 million in 1999

Iron Steed

Someday soon, hybrid cars will be replaced with hybrid horse/hondas. Modeled after insects, the bio-vehicles will be lovingly treated as the half-living things they are. Running on gasoline or oats, the steeds will be ideal for most any environment, great when you have no idea what tomorrow's weather will be.

Good luck exploring all the cool stuff over at Modern Mechanix, of course, Via BoingBoing.


Sen. Jim Webb Energizes His Base

Newly elected Senator of Virginia, Jim Webb showed his base that his friends have trouble with gun restrictions too,
Webb's aide facing felony charge in gun flap

Senator Calls Gun Incident Inadvertent

“Since 9/11, for people who are in government, I think there has been an agreement that it has been a more dangerous time,” he said. “You look at people in the executive branch, the number of people defending the president. There is not that kind of protection available for people in the legislative branch. We are required to defend ourselves. I choose to do so.”

Senators are often permitted to skirt the metal detectors as they enter the Capitol. But Mr. Webb said he had “never carried a gun in the Capitol complex.”
Webb has only been in office a few months, but he's already become famous for his terse exchange with President Bush, and his presentation of the Democratic rebuttal to the President's State of the Union. [transcript] [video]

I'm sure this latest incident will only cement his positive reputation with his constituents.


Seven Soldiers of Victory

I recently read Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers. It was an ambitious project started in April 2005; 7 different unappreciated characters, each given their own 4 issue miniseries, with 2 giant-sized bookend issues. Separate stories joining together to form one giant story in the end. I didn't read it as it came out because 7*4*$2.99+$6.98= More than I want to spend on Superhero comics in a year. 52 is even worse, a new three dollar issue ever week. Thank you very much, no thank you.

I read it in trade and it was really good and I'm planning to scan some images to show it off. The one-shot bookends were drawn by J.H. Williams III, who is one of my absolute favorite artists working today. Anyway, in trying to learn more about what the hell I'd just read (a normal experience with a Grant Morrison book) I stumbled on to a blog I'd stumbled onto earlier this year. Jog - The Blog. Last time I found it I was really impressed, but let it slip through my fingers like so much internet sand. Not going to let that happen this time.

Seven Soldiers: A Short List
An index of Jog's reviews for the entire Seven Soldiers series. I read the last one, and again was really impressed. I'm planning to go through and read them all.

Batman #663
That first thing I read by Jog. A review of one of the worst comics I ever saw. Grant Morrison at his lowest. An important review for me because it backs up my rarely agreed with point that Morrison's Arkham Asylum is crap.

Actually, this issue is a little like Arkham Asylum in that way. It’s not nearly as bad, mind you, as Arkham Asylum is quite possibly the single shittiest comic Morrison has ever written on his own, a veritable catalog of his worst storytelling tendencies splashed with all the dourness and intellectual pouting the post-Watchmen superhero landscape could offer. This issue is a little too self-conscious for that. But it does share its popular predecessor’s tendency to substitute simple declaration for substantive insight - we’re told over and over what depth these characters have, yet we’re never allowed to see them demonstrate these hidden fathoms in a manner apart from the string-pulling of Grant Morrison.
Jog - The Blog
I'm also hoping his blog can be my guide out of the world of superhero comics. After Marvel's Civil War, I realized I really need to diversify my holdings in the comic book market. What I'm reading is fun, but it really needs to be supplemented with things that have not been completely infected by decompression. A single issue of Jack Kirby's Avengers had more happening in it than in the entire Civil War. I'm really enjoying the week-to-week anticipation thing, but I need my vitamins too. More on comics later.

Hagel on Impeachment

From the Washington Post:

"Any president who says, I don't care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed _ if a president really believes that, then there are _ what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that," said Hagel, who is considering a 2008 presidential run.
On Sunday, Hagel said he was bothered by Bush's apparent disregard of congressional sentiment on Iraq, such as his decision to send additional troops. He said lawmakers now stood ready to stand up to the president when necessary.

In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who doesn't believe he's accountable to anyone. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes," Hagel told the magazine.
"We have clearly a situation where the president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort," Hagel said. "It is now time, going into the fifth year of that effort, for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions as to our involvement."

"This is not a monarchy,"
he added, referring to the possibility that some lawmakers may seek impeachment. "There are ways to deal with it. And I would hope the president understands that."


The Man in the High Castle

I just finished reading Philip K. Dick's The Man in The High Castle. Really tremendous. The ending was a bit disappointing, but I might just need to read it again, or get smarter. Anyway, the book is set in a world where the Germans and Japanese won World War II. It made me realize all sorts of things, primarily that things could be way worse. I've been doing some peripheral research and here's what I've found:

Nazi and East German Propaganda
Calvin College has an impressive collection of content, including Goebbels speeches. P.K. Dick said he wanted to write a sequel, but didn't want to do the necessary research, because it was too intense. I'm inclined to agree, maybe someday I'll have the strength to read through some more of those speeches, but not anytime soon.

The Big Lie

[Hitler's] primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it. - OSS report page 51

I Ching
I hope I will have the strength to learn as much as I can about the Book of Changes. It sounds fascinating.

And to contextualize the date, here is a quote from today's newspaper:
“The American people have lost faith in the president’s conduct of this war,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in bringing an end to a charged debate on the House floor. “The American people see the reality of the war; the president does not.”


Room with a View

Those cheery folks over at Amnesty International have built replica of a Guantanamo Bay prison cell and, thanks to the wonders of Quicktime VR, you can get a 360° view of a room without habeas corpus.


The VEIDT Alert Map
Possibly the greatest thing ever. It's like being in the JLA Watchtower, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, and Adrian Veidt's house all at once.

BBC; BAGHDAD: Mapping the Violence
It's great that now we can take sad news and visualize it to get a better sense just how sad it is. It's like reading 50 newspaper articles.


Futurist Digest Weekly

I've more I want to highlight from that Bruce Sterling speech, because it has a lot of startling ideas. But I've been coming in to a lot of really great speeches lately. So I think I'll just sort of index them here.

What if the Singularity Doesn't Happen?
Vernor Vinge @ the Long Now Foundation
February 15, 2007

In one scenario, Vinge breaks failure of a tech-rapture down in software/hardware terms. Software never advances to the level to deal with all our information. Software fails catastrophically and deters economic incentive for advancement. Etc. Vinge says that if we can make it through this century than we can be fairly certain we'll reach the Singularity.

Storytelling & Spore
Will Wright @ SXSW
March 2007
[via Wonderland]

The Spore stuff I'm somewhat skeptical of after listening to Will Wright's Long Now speech he gave with Brian Eno.
[mp3] [Summary & Discussion]
Though Wright has lots of interesting things to say about generative systems in both speeches. I think that Spore will not quite be the realization of the dream that many (he) may be claiming. It will still be trapped in the mundanity of Sim City and the Sims.

The Wonderful Power of Storytelling[txt]
Bruce Sterling @ the Computer Game Developers Conference, San Jose CA
March 1991

A few more snippets from Sterling's speech, because it covered so much ground, and being 16 years old, it now has covered even more.
Something of the sort may come from virtual reality. I rather imagine something like an LSD backlash occuring there; something along the lines of: "Hey we have something here that can really seriously boost your imagination!" "Well, Mr Developer, I'm afraid we here in the Food Drug and Software Administration don't really approve of that." That could happen. I think there are some visionary computer police around who are seriously interested in that prospect, they see it as a very promising growing market for law enforcement, it's kind of their version of a golden vaporware.

I now want to talk some about the differences between your art and my art. My art, science fiction writing, is pretty new as literary arts go, but it labors under the curse of three thousand years of literacy. In some weird sense I'm in direct competition with Homer and Euripides. I mean, these guys aren't in the SFWA, but their product is still taking up valuable rack-space. You guys on the other hand get to reinvent everything every time a new platform takes over the field. This is your advantage and your glory. This is also your curse. It's a terrible kind of curse really.
In the art of book-writing the classics are still living competition, they tend to elevate the entire art-form by their persistent presence.
I'm into technical people who attack pop culture. I'm into techies gone dingo, techies gone rogue -- not street punks picking up any glittery junk that happens to be within their reach -- but disciplined people, intelligent people, people with some technical skills and some rational thought, who can break out of the arid prison that this society sets for its engineers. People who are, and I quote, "dismayed by nearly every aspect of the world situation and aware on some nightmare level that the solutions to our problems will not come from the breed of dimwitted ad-men that we know as politicians."
That last bit, reminded me of something Vinge said in his speech, about a world where the masses were better educated then the elites; here the government would have to provide true freedom, or a closer imitation of it than has ever been seen, to satisfy this new class. (olpc users unite!) And finally, Cory Doctrow makes some interesting points in his non-speech article, You Do Like Reading Off a Computer Screen.
The novel is an invention, one that was engendered by technological changes in information display, reproduction, and distribution. The cognitive style of the novel is different from the cognitive style of the legend. The cognitive style of the computer is different from the cognitive style of the novel.
The problem, then, isn't that screens aren't sharp enough to read novels off of. The problem is that novels aren't screeny enough to warrant protracted, regular reading on screens.


Digitalize Your Walk

"The Wonderful Power of Storytelling"
Bruce Sterling at the Computer Game Developers Conference, March 1991, San Jose CA

But our riches of information are in some deep and perverse sense a terrible burden to us. They're like a cognitive load. As a digitized information-rich culture nowadays, we have to artificially invent ways to forget stuff. I think this is the real explanation for the triumph of compact disks.

The real advantage of CDs is that they allow you to forget all your vinyl records. You think you love this record collection that you've amassed over the years. But really the sheer choice, the volume, the load of memory there is secretly weighing you down.

By dumping the platform you dump everything attached to the platform and my god what a blessed secret relief. What a relief not to remember it, not to think about it, not to have it take up disk-space in your head.
The unintended consequences of digitization are really interesting to me. Cellphones had lots of of those. They sewed together a net, made of everyone you know, and they used it to catch us all. I resisted getting a cellphone for years, but that doesn't matter now.

{paraphrase of me in 2004}
Civilization is based on the strength of the individual, the strength of silence, of thought and calm. And cellphones will devour our solitude. Our quiet times, when we meditate in our steps, and over many miles grow as people.

wikiNTERJECTION: The old theories of evolution said that we were the monkey that got smart, but Lucy indicated, we were the monkey that learned to walk.///

{paraphrase of me in 2004}
Cellphones create a false sense of community; of a net ready to catch you. But this isn't any traditional community, it is a digitized one; made up of people who are abandoning reflection; becoming bytes, able to interrupt you at anytime; without obligation or responsibility to anyone.

There would be no more Alone, I protested.

wikiNTERJECTION: The pillars of the French discipline Parkour are escape and reach. Is this the definition of freedom?///

Now I have a cellphone and soon it will have the internet. Reach. And Escape?


Run OLPC's "Sugar" under OS X

According to a post on BoingBoing, the OLPC developers have released an app to let your computer emulate the Children's Machine.

I'm going home to try it right now.


Might have jumped the gun a little, now that I'm home I can try to elaborate.
The developers have been posting [disk] images of the Sugar OS, and it looks like they've been doing it for some time (possibly since the Beginning) ...

Anyway, so the deal is, you can download an emulator from these fine people, who've developed a virtual machine (a la parallels, but free), then run the olpc image of your choosing under your new vm. Not a new idea, not an OLPC-released app, and not nearly as point-and-click as I initally thought. However, I have calmed down some from my initial enthusiasm -- and I'm still excited. Of course I'm still excited!

Sadly, I do hear it's kinda sluggish under Q (those attempting under parallels had more promising results). But I'll see for myself shortly.

It looks like I'm getting my first taste of the Children's Machine much sooner than expected.

OLPC Specs


Memory Palace

In ancient advice, the loci were physical locations, usually in a familiar large public building, such as a market or a church. To utilize the method, one walked through the building several times, viewing distinct places within it, in the same order each time. After a few repetitions of this, one should be able to remember and visualize each of the places in order reliably. To memorize a speech, one breaks it up into pieces, each of which is symbolized by vivid imagined objects or symbols. In the mind's eye, one then places each of these images into the loci. They can then be recalled in order by imagining that one is walking through the building again, visiting each of the loci in order, and viewing each of the images that were placed in the loci, thereby recalling each piece of the speech in order.

A reference to these techniques survives to this day in the common English phrases "in the first place", "in the second place", and so forth.

Method of loci


Breaking News: LIBBY GUILTY

Libby Found Guilty On Four Counts


"The richest country in the world can afford whatever it needs for defense."
Scoop Jackson in 1960, campaigning for Kennedy

Last night my friend Sean told me about the CIA's adaptation into a non-governmental organization called National Endowment for Democracy, which might be responsible for essentially all the democratic revolutions over the past twenty years. Short form: The CIA became an NGO called NED and kept doing what they love to do.

What is that they love to do? Best to start on the right and move left, as this seems to be the trend of the future.

Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy
by Barbara Conry, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.
This article's from 1993, but it's from the Cato Institute thus providing an interesting conservative take. The take: expensive meddling in countries we don't care about.

Wikipedia - National Endowment for Democracy
Current and former directors of the Endowment's Board include
Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission,
former Congressman Richard Gephardt,
Richard Holbrooke,
U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,
Frank Carlucci of the Carlyle Group,
General Wesley Clark,
Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research,
Dr. Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins SAIS, and
U.S. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.
A new site for me, it's operated by The Center for Media and Democracy which describes
"a collaborative project to produce a directory of public relations firms, think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts that work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments and special interests."
So this is my reading list. I need to really sit down sometime and read it all and follow all the threads, but do I even want to? According to SourceWatch:
NED was created with a view to creating a broad base of political support for the organization. NED received funds from the U.S. government and distributes funds to four other organizations - one created by the Republican Party, another by the Democratic Party, one created by the business community and one by the "labor" movement.
The AFL-CIO is very much involve in all this, so are some Democrats, so are some Republicans, so is big business. When I was into the Skull & Bones (and who wouldn't be after seeing this) I first realized how scary the CIA is. Presidents come and go and people watch them, but these appointees and their damn secrets. It's really terrifying. To see what they have done, and what they are doing now, ignoring all our national discussions, guided by values unknown, intimately involved with all the parties of power, well, it kind of makes our democracy look pathetic. These men and their secrets make chumps of us all.

The Bridge to the 21st Century should have come with a gate. Why couldn't Bill have built a gate to keep these bastards out? Why did he ask Congress for more NED funding than they were willing to give him? Is anyone ever going to really stop these guys? Turn on the lights and the roaches just hid, then there always back later. John McLaughlin says 2008 will signal a massive shift of the nation to the radical left. Here's hoping.


WikiLists or WikiGold?

List of English Words of International Origin

And if you want to see lists of famous people by cause of death, or a list of people known as The Great, check out the Lists of People.

WikiLists are becoming my new favorite thing about the internet, it's more information than I could ever hope to devour. But not so much information that I couldn't peruse it all, if I could see it all at once.
We need some WikiAlchemists to transmute this lead into gold. Lead's useful, but gold's more fun.

More mind numbing list fun:
Countries & Age Structures
Unfortunately the structure is based on working age, not voting age. (0-14, 15-64, 65+)